In Hellboy and the B.P.R.D: Time is a River #1, the year is 1989 and Hellboy is searching for his friend, Lajos. In the opening panel, he chats with an old friend of Lajos at Eotvos University in Budapest. The chat leads him to a witchy old woman with a horse face named Grabinski. She deduces from Hellboy’s memories that Lajos is trapped in the Ghost world of Budapest and that it is up to Hellboy to find him and make things right.
Hellboy arrives in the flooded Ghostworld Budapest where he is taken by two eerie boatmen to the site of a public execution. Lajos is going to be put to death, initially by being burned at the stake, but later by being drowned (aka “wedded” to the maiden of the Danube). As Hellboy struggles to save Lajos, the pair are rescued and returned to Budapest by St. Gerard. When later looking at a statue of the saint, Lajos reflects that he hasn’t given much thought to religion since he was a boy, but that when he found himself all alone in “that place,” all his grandmother’s stories come back to him.
This comic has much more magic and otherworldliness than I was expecting. From the ghostly Budapest, to the Baba Yaga-like character of Graninski, to St. Gerard bursting out of the water as a stunning light-filled vision, I was pleasantly surprised by such elegant nods to folklore and religion within a comic. From what I now understand, this type of storytelling is characteristic for much of Hellboy comics.
I also love the artwork, which does justice to the elements of the story I have mentioned. The whimsical drawing style and exaggerated features of the characters are endearing. Hellboy’s costume (especially the scarf) and hairstyle (man bun) are special details that I appreciated.
This comic was my first introduction to Hellboy. Hopefully, it will not be my last.